A growing number of organizations with vital missions have at least two things in common: They’re all employers of high-level scientific and technical talent. And they call the same place home: St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, a community of a quarter-million on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Recent growth has included a new corporate HQ and donor care center in Covington for the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA), where many of the 100 employees have happily relocated from the south shore.
“There is a lot of health care here, and businesses are continuing to grow,” LOPA CEO Kelly Ranum says of the facility that brings services under one roof rather than having them spread across the state. “St. Tammany has been a great location, and I can’t say enough about how much they’ve welcomed us into the community. A lot of us who live here know the value of St Tammany Parish.”
Ampirical Solutions President Matthew Saacks announced the company’s new $20 million, 78,000-sq.-ft. headquarters in late December 2019. The office in Covington is expected to be move-in ready by the end of 2020, and will consolidate 120 existing jobs into one location. Founded in Mandeville, national electrical infrastructure company Ampirical aims to create 400 new jobs in the state over the next decade, at an average annual salary of more than $85,000, plus benefits. Between 2016 and 2017, the parish’s median household income grew by nearly 4.5% to $66,539.
“We recruit professional talent from across the country, and we’re able to attract and retain superior candidates because of the quality of life offered here, whether that’s in educational opportunities, attractive communities, or proximity to all that the greater New Orleans area provides,” Saacks said.
“Ampirical’s commitment to remain in the parish and expand reinforces our ability to support the scientific and technical services industry sector and the strength of our pro-business environment,” said St. Tammany Corporation CEO Chris Masingill. Among the focus areas within the sector are IT, scientific services, technical services, R&D, company management and consulting.
Saacks says his original startup landed in the parish because “the three of us lived in St. Tammany and wanted to be here,” he says. When the company began looking at expansion in 2017, one of the ultimate drivers was where employees lived. Today, the headcount is approaching 220 nationally, with most in the St. Tammany area. Many recent positions are homegrown, as residents believe Saacks when he says, “We are not trying to offer jobs. We are offering careers.”
Saacks says the support Ampirical has received from state, city and parish officials has been a breath of fresh air: “They move fast like a business, as responsive or better than almost anyone else we’ve worked with.” He’s been particularly pleased by the strong connections St. Tammany Corporation and allies have with the universities and Northshore Technical Community College, which “has given us a good pipeline of drafters. I have a one-stop shop with the economic development folks. I don’t have to hunt down the college deans.
“There’s no way we could have amassed those relationships on our own,” Saacks says of St. Tammany Corporation’s assistance. “And they’re plugged into regional economic development groups. It’s been fun, and really opened our eyes.”
Working through an expansion is fun? We must be in Louisiana.
Working and Living
Founded around 90 years ago in New Orleans as Mechanical Equipment Co., MECO Inc., creates tailored water purification systems for the pharmaceutical, marine, oil & gas and defense industries around the world. After being hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, MECO moved some operations to Houston, but in 2012 announced it would invest $11 million to construct a new 80,000-sq.-ft. facility at the Alamosa Business Park in Mandeville. That complex was completed in 2014. MECO has been growing ever since.
“A year later, in 2015, we added on 22,000 more square feet immediately, and so now we’re above 100,000 square feet,” says MECO Executive Vice President and CFO Reano Siragusa, Jr., “and we’re actually contemplating another addition that would be quite a bit larger than that. In the U.S., we’re about 250 people, and probably around 180 to 190 at this facility right now,” Siragusa says. “Frankly, we should be doing a little more hiring here shortly.”
The hiring comes as the company’s biopharma business grows by double digits each year. Few of those customers are in the region or even in the Southeast. But it sure would be nice if they were.
“It’s a good place to do business,” he says of the parish. “The local folks have worked very well with us at the original plant as well as the expansion. When we’ve needed them to expedite things, they’ve expedited things. If there are issues, we’re able to resolve them very quickly.
“It would be wonderful if somehow the area could attract more pharmaceutical companies,” Siragusa says. “That is a growing business that provides high-quality jobs for educated people, and that is what St. Tammany is about.”
This Investment Profile was published under the auspices of St. Tammany Corporation, the economic development organization for St. Tammany Parish. For more information, visit www.sttammanycorp.org.
Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.